Early this season, many left the Los Angeles Angels for dead. Well, not literally, but in a baseball sense. The Angels lost 15 of their first 23 games and were nine games out of first place on May 1. But they started winning almost with the change of the calendar; they went 35-20 in May and June and though they struggled a bit in July, the Rangers did as well, going 9-14, and the Angels entered August as the wild-card leaders, and just three games out of first place.
That's where the teams stood as they played Wednesday night in Texas. With Yu Darvish on the mound, the Rangers hoped to extend their division lead. But the Angels blasted Darvish for a six-run third inning that included a two-run homer by Albert Pujols, who has been Pujolsian again after his bad start. Darvish issued six walks in all, and this seems ominous:
Yu Darvish when facing a team he's already played: 6.45 ERA. Now in line for loss that would make him 3-6 in 9 such starts.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 2, 2012
Darvish might have been tagged with that loss -- the Rangers trailed 7-1 when Ron Washington had mercy on him and lifted him after five innings -- except Texas began coming back. A four-run fifth made it 7-5, and single runs in the eighth and ninth tied it; the tying run was an Ian Kinsler home run off Ernesto Frieri, who had one of two Angels blown saves in this game.
One of two? Yes, that's right. The Angels pounded Rangers closer Joe Nathan for three runs in the top of the 10th, two of them on Pujols' second homer of the game, giving them a 10-7 lead. That gave Pujols a career first:
This is the first time in Albert Pujols' career that he's hit multiple home runs in consecutive games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 2, 2012
With a three-run lead, Mike Scioscia figured, "What could go wrong if I left Frieri in the game?" Plenty, as it turned out. Nelson Cruz cut the lead to two with a home run on the first pitch Frieri threw to him. Andrew Romine (yes, I had to look him up, too), playing shortstop for the Angels, allowed Michael Young to reach on an error. Frieri then walked David Murphy, and then Scioscia yanked him for Jason Isringhausen.
One out later, Elvis Andrus rocked Rangers Ballpark with a two-run single, winning the game 11-10, and producing yet another rare event:
Games like this can make or break seasons, although at times they're nothing but a single win or single loss. It's up to the Rangers and Angels, who play again in Texas Thursday night, to use this game as a launching pad for more success, or throw off one night's failure and stay on the road to the postseason.